‘Storm chaser’ scams: How to avoid scammers after a natural disaster

Although natural disasters can often bring out the best in people, a lot of times, it also brings out contractors and scammers hoping to take advantage of victims reaching out for help

Better Business Bureau is warning homeowners affected by natural disasters to avoid “storm chasers” and out-of-town contractors soliciting business. Not all storm chasers are scammers, but many still don’t have licensing in the area, offer quick solutions or can’t uphold their promises.

There are a few things you can do when hiring a contractor that can better protect you from harm. CLICK HERE for BBB’s tips on hiring a contractor.

BBB also has these specific tips for victims of natural disasters:

  1. Contact your insurance company. Homeowners are encouraged to ask about their policy coverage and specific filing requirements. They are also encouraged to save receipts. BBB says these receipts include those for food, temporary lodging and other expenses that may be covered. Your insurance company may even recommend contractors to you.

  2. Do your research. Homeowners should check state and provincial government agencies responsible for registering and licensing to get a good contractor. You can access BBB’s tool on finding contractors HERE.

  3. Resist high-pressure sales. Many storm chasers lure victims in by offering a “good deal” that is only available for a limited time. Homeowners should be proactive when selecting a contractor, not reactive to sales.

  4. Be especially careful of door-to-door contractors. Most places require solicitors to have a permit for door-to-door contact. Therefore, you should ask for identification and verify business names, phone number and license plates.

  5. Don’t sign over insurance checks to contractors. Get an invoice from the contractor and pay them directly (preferably with a credit card, which has additional fraud protection). Don’t sign any documents that gives a contractor any rights to your insurance claims. If you have any questions, contact your insurance company or agent.

  6. Be wary of places you can’t see. Most contractors abide by the law, but be wary of people inspecting damage. Unethical contractors may create additional damage. Also, beware of contractors that offer to pay construction companies. They often wait for the insurance payout and move on.

Additional resources:

BBB storm resources

Tips to help you find a reputable tree service company you can trust.

Find a contractor near you and read BBB’s tips on hiring a contractor.

Report scams to BBB ScamTracker.

Go to BBB.org to look up business profiles, file a complaint, or write a customer review.

Read more about BBB Accreditation Standards and BBB Standards for Trust. Learn how to become a BBB Accredited Business.

For more information, read BBB’s article HERE.

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